Homestays: A Student Accommodation Alternative | Top Universities

Homestays: A Student Accommodation Alternative

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Guest Writer

Updated Feb 02, 2015



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Guest post: HFS London

In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, a growing number of people are travelling overseas to study at university, complete language courses, pursue internships or merely for tourism.  For all these types of traveler, homestays provide an affordable and attractive accommodation option – especially for those searching for short- to medium-term student accommodation.

Many students choose homestay accommodation for the first few months of their time abroad, as an affordable base from which to start getting settled. But, looking more closely at the features of homestays, this option has much more to offer than just a budget place to rest your head.

What is homestay accommodation?

Homestay accommodation can best be described as “a home away from home experience”.  More specifically, homestays are normal homes, which open their doors to accommodate people looking for short- to medium-term accommodation.

If you choose homestay accommodation, you can expect to be treated as part of the family – eating, socializing and relaxing with members of the household. You will have your own bedroom and access to communal areas around the house, such as the lounge and garden.

Homestays are also often referred to as “host families”. However, they are not necessarily families in the most traditional sense. Hosts can be single people, young couples, married couples with or without children, and even retired pensioners.

What are the benefits of homestay accommodation?

So, why should you choose a homestay for the first weeks of your time studying abroad? Some of the benefits of homestay accommodation include:

1. Affordability

Let’s first consider costs. Take London, for example – a popular international destination for students. Generally speaking, accommodation in London is not cheap. A basic/average hotel will charge around £75-£100 (US$115-150) per night and much private-sector accommodation does not offer short-term stays (less than six months). By contrast, at the time of writing, accommodation with a host family in London starts from £120 ($185) per week. 

So homestays provide a high-quality yet relatively cheap alternative to booking a hotel or hostel. This gives international students time to settle in, and search for longer term accommodation while already in the area, rather than having to find somewhere to rent long-term while still outside the country.

2. Convenience

Although homestays are not hotels, host families generally provide essential services such as washing clothes, changes of bed linen and a selected meal plan. Meal plans can include Self-Catering (full access to the kitchen), Bed & Breakfast (prepared breakfast and some independent use of the kitchen) and Half Board (breakfast and evening meal provided). Half board options are very popular for students attending schools or universities during the day – an easy way to make sure you eat well!

In most countries, regulatory bodies provide a set of standards to which homestays should adhere. For example, in the UK, the British Council stipulates that hosts must provide one load of washing a week, the room must be adequately heated and lit, and the homestay must be a clean and hygienic household. Before choosing a homestay, it is important to make sure it adheres to national regulatory standards. 

3. Flexibility

Homestays are a very flexible option. The individual is not tied into a six-month break clause; the minimum stay period is usually between 1-2 weeks. So students are able to test the water before making any long-term decisions about their accommodation. If the student is comfortable with the host, s/he can choose to stay longer. Alternatively, if the student has made friends and wishes to move into a shared house, this would also be possible.

4. Immersion in the local culture

Homestays provide the opportunity to experience everyday life in a new place, getting insights into the local culture. Host families are usually an excellent source of advice or information, able to provide indispensable tips on transport, local hang-outs and practical essentials (emergency contact numbers, local amenities etc). Talking to your host family is also an ideal way to develop language skills if needed.

After having spent time in a homestay, many people stay in contact with their hosts and end up developing lasting friendships.

All in all, whether you are just looking for a cheaper student accommodation option or searching for a safe and comfortable way to start life in a new country, homestays are a fantastic option. 

HFS London is a British Council registered homestay and private home agency based in London, UK.  They have host families across north, south, east and west London and work on behalf of many of London’s most established universities and language schools. If you are considering homestay as an option for your stay in London, you can contact HFS London at or on [email protected].